Archive for shrine

Kabushima, the island of seagulls and the shrine in Hachinohe-City

Posted in Hachinohe-city with tags , , , , on October 9, 2010 by Yuko

Have you heard about the Kabushima Island in Aomori-Prefecture? It is the only place you can closely view the seagull’s nests and their caring of baby birds in Japan.

I visited there in June, the most lively season of the Kabushima Island. Please enjoy the following images, one of the popular tourist spots in Hachinohe-City.

First, seagulls welcome you like this at the parking area……

Can you see the white dots on the grass? The dots are all seagulls, and the total number is said to be THIRTY-THOUSAND!!

Kabushima is a small, uninhabited gourd-shaped island 0.8 kirometers in circumference. Every year they migrate to this island in early March and start breeding.

When eggs hatch in June, the rapeseed flowers are in full bloom on the island. Parents and baby seagulls squawk, they fly around all the time, and the sound of ocean waves and winds make the area so lively (or noisy).

I just love the way seagulls standing still, all facing to the same direction…….

By the way, can you guess what these umbrellas are for ?

The answer is to protect yourself from the dropping of seagulls!!!

There is the Kabushima Shrine on the top of the island, and visitors and tourists pass through the red Trii gate and go up the stairs with umbrellas.

On the way climbing up the stairs, many nests and seagull families can be viewed.

Seagulls protect the shrine with gardian lions. Seagulls are regarded as the messengers of  the sea goddess among fishermen, since seagulls tell where the schools of fish are in the water.

Kabushima Shrine

Seagull bronze statues and live models

The new candy featuring seagulls started to be sold from this year.  The name is “Umineko Bakudan”, literally “seagull bombs” in Japanese.

Candies in the shape of seagulls droppings can be taken out from the back of the box seagull….can be good for the souvenir.

Now seagulls are all gone migrating south, so please come to Aomori next summer to enjoy this amazing view in Hachinohe.

Oh please let me tell you about the omen believed in Japan.  “Droppings” and “fortune” have the same pronunciation in Japanese.

So if seagull droppings land on you, it is a major sign of wealth coming from heaven.  If you want that sign, please come to Kabushima island. I promise you can receive a whole bunch of “fortune” signs from seagulls :)  

Kabushima Island & Kabushima Shrine

Access:  15 minutes walk from JR Same Station, Hachinohe-Line


Donto Yaki in Utou Shrine, Aomori

Posted in 1, Aomori-city with tags , , on February 4, 2010 by Yuko

Japanese people decorate their houses with ornaments around New Year’s Day, which is to welcome the God of the Year. After using those ornaments, you can’t just throw them away as trash. People take all used ornaments to the shrines or temples on the “Donto-yaki” fire festivel day to burn them. Those ornaments belong to the God and you can’t treat them rough, and by buring them we can return to the God up above. This custom is practiced around January 15 every year in all over Japan.

This year I went to Utou Shrine in Aomori-city to clear my used ornaments and old amulets.

Utou Shrine is located in the central Aomori, about 500m from JR Aomori station. This Shrine is the most popular place local people choose to visit for the first shrine visit of the New Year.

A pair of guardian lions’ eyes were….. covered with snow.

I wondered if they could do their job without seeing anything.

Actually it was my first time to visit the “Donto-yaki ” fire festival. I thought I could find the big bonfire burning used New Year’s ornaments, but they were not making a bonfire, just collecting all stuff people brought.

After placing your ornaments or old amulets in the designated area, you pay the fee. The price was not settled. You just decide the price by how much you would like to offer. Then I received a talisman(paper) and was told to burn it to ward off evil influences. People were making a line and were praying while burning their talisman.

After burning my talisman, I found the corner treating people with Sake(Japanese rice wine) and grilled rice cakes. It is said that if you drink the Sake or the rice cake prepared at Donto-yaki festival, you will not catch a cold and can stay healthy this year.

I couldn’t drink Sake because I was driving a car, but had a piece of grilled rice cake. Dipping sauce for the rice cake was “sugar and soy sauce”, simply dissolving sugar with soy sauce. I think this sauce is the world-easiest sweet sauce for rice cake that kids like, and very familiar taste for Japanese.

When you visit temples or shrines, one thing you can’t miss is reading your fortune. First, pay the price (100yen), then pull one stick out of numbered sticks in the box. Tell the staff what number is written in the stick you drew. The staff gives you a paper which matches the number on your stick, and reveal your fortune….

Of course I drew one to see how my year 2010 be…..and it was “The Best Luck”. Yes!!

Even when you drew a negative fortune and want to try it again, it is not really a good thing. Because the fortune you received should be regarded as a message from the God. If you try to draw fortune again immediatly wishing for the better fortune, it means you are ignoring God’s message. Instead of drawing a fortune again, people attach the negative fortune papers to the trees or ropes in the ground of shrine, which is to ask support from the God, or to keep away from the bad luck.

By the time I got ready to leave the shrine, I felt somehow refreshed. Donto-yaki is not a lively kind of festival, but an important custom to terminate New Year celebration and wish for the health throughout the year. If you have a chance to stay in Aomori or Japan in the middle of January, it can be nice to visit shrines or temples for Donto-yaki.

Utou Shrine

2-7-18 Yasukata, Aomori-city

Pay Parking Lot Available